Healthcare insurance premiums depend of these six industry trends
Written by Jane A.
Forbes brings out that “Access to high quality information to make informed decisions is unfortunately still in its infancy.” This means that healthcare consumers, whether they're looking at coverage or treatment options, face a tangled web of fees and options that leaves them confused and so stressed that they could blame healthcare for some of their health problems.
That ugly situation, however, is on the verge of change as companies work to build systems that present straightforward information about costs and coverage to patients. New systems are also likely to give more options to patients for where they go to receive specialized treatments.2. Healthy Habits for Lower Premiums
It seems that, in general, people care about people and companies care about money. However, for health insurance companies, caring about money means caring about people. Healthier people cost less for insurance companies than those with preventable and expensive conditions.
Hence, companies will eventually offer lower premiums to people who demonstrate a health-conscious attitude in their daily lives. They can demonstrate such awareness by using mobile apps to track their behaviors and overall health.3. Healthcare Portals
Imagine a place where consumers can connect with healthcare providers, view fitness data, track the progress of their health, and get new ideas on how to stay healthy. Such all-in-one portals are likely soon to become the norm. This easy access to information will empower people to take greater responsibility for their own health.4. Healthcare Informatics
This next trend doesn't receive a lot of attention because it doesn't directly impact patients, but anyone interested in healthcare developments should know about it. Wisegeek.com defines healthcare informatics as a discipline that “combines the fields of information technology and health to develop the systems required to…advance clinical workflow, and improve the security of the healthcare system.”
The benefits of greater efficiency for healthcare providers will transfer to consumers, making the advancement of informatics one of the most exciting healthcare trends. People who choose careers in healthcare informatics will find themselves more in demand than ever before.5. Healthcare Coaches
You can expect to see health coaches playing a larger role in clinics and in patients’ lives. What does a health coach do? A health coach isn’t the kind of nurse who chides someone for smoking before quickly moving on. A coach is there to listen, getting to know patients on a personal level in order to motivate and inspire. The coach also communicates with doctors and nurses to let them know of any issues that they might need to take into account as they arrange for a patient’s care.
A health coach doesn’t necessarily need a medical degree. The key traits of a coach involve interpersonal skills and a real desire to see someone succeed in taking charge of their own health. The personal aspects of this arrangement make the coaching system one of the key trends in healthcare.6. Employee Incentives
A healthy employee is a more productive one, and productive employees cost an employer less money. Therefore, the trend of employers offering incentives to employees who have healthy habits emerges. The incentives can include anything from deeper discounts on company merchandise to more paid days off to engage in wellness activities. Companies also give free tools to employees, including pedometers and free subscriptions to wellness websites.
Workers who don’t meet minimum health standards may face penalties such as higher premiums. Some companies even refuse to hire people with health issues. Alaska Airlines, for example, doesn't hire people who test positive for nicotine.
As more businesses latch onto the benefits of health promotion programs, they're likely to adopt standards like the ones outlined in this paper by the Partnership for Prevention.
Most of the above trends point to one bigger, overall trend — that of empowering healthcare consumers to take greater responsibility for their own wellness. As people embrace this exciting changes, expect to see a healthier, more informed population.
Driving sustainability in medical device production
Environmental protection and stewardship are rapidly rising to the top of the corporate agenda and medical device businesses are no exception. The healthcare sectors of the United States, Australia, Canada, and England combined emit an estimated 748 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, an output greater than the carbon emissions of all but six nations worldwide. In order to curb this situation various European standards have been introduced.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE); Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS); Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) and the Energy Using Products (EuP) regulations have all significantly altered manufacturing processes, specific labelling, compliance with disposal restrictions, and creation of instructions for end-of-life management and recycling.
At the moment many medical devices are currently exempt from these regulations but several directives, including RoHS and WEEE, are in the process of being reviewed and could be applicable in future. This is especially relevant for devices that are ‘connected’ and have a digital monitoring component which then brings them under the regulatory purview of authorities that govern devices with electronic components.
Safety, Usability and Sustainability
While medical device manufacturers have been working to respond to increasing demand for environmental sustainability from the market, they also have to contend with a key element of their mission: to ensure safety and usability to healthcare workers and patients. Parenteral and other invasive devices are strictly regulated to help reduce the risk of Healthcare Acquired Infection which typically runs as high as 5% and 8% in most developed countries, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As a result, they typically contain disposable single-use plastic elements.
At the same time, many hospitals and purchasing organisations have started to recognise that sustainable purchasing practices play a pivotal role in reducing costs over time. Many GPOs have appointed and empowered Senior Directors of Environmentally Preferred Sourcing who are successfully implementing the sustainable purchasing business case. In addition global pharmaceutical companies are increasingly creating senior positions with sustainability objectives as key to the role.
Medical device disposal is a particularly burning issue; generally carried out through incineration in the EU, it typically releases nitrous oxide, as well as known carcinogens including polychlorinated biphenyls, furans and dioxins. Some of the strategies trialled by manufacturers to reduce waste matter destined to incineration include sterilisation and reprocessing.
Sterilisation, however, falls short on the environmental front, and may consume more energy and produce more emissions than incineration itself. In the United States for example, 50% of all sterile medical devices are sterilised with ethylene oxide but since this method releases harmful emissions, the US Food and Drug Administration is now encouraging the development of new methods or technologies. Many other established sterilisation methods use glutaraldehyde that is not only harmful to the environment but also tends to be regulated by strict usage and disposal rules such as COSSH guidelines.
Focus on Recycling
The outlook on recycling is changing significantly thanks to new research and technologies enabling, for example, monomer extraction. Recycled polymers can be broken down to their constituent monomers promoting an almost limitless recyclability of some polymers. In addition to this, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), renewable polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) can be recycled several times without losing critical properties.
Reducing the impact of packaging can also significantly reduce the materials that need to be dealt with through either waste or recycling. Packaging manufacturers are decreasing packaging volume by favouring sealed trays instead of pouches, laser-etching instructions directly on to the tray where regulation permits it, or reducing the number of components required overall. In addition to this, for recycling plans to be successful it important to have a full understanding of the practices surrounding device use and to establish, where possible, closed loop recycling systems that recover the waste materials from hospitals or patients and bring them back into the recycling process.
Sustainable Manufacturing: Technology and Research
Greater employment of fast degrading plastics or material from other sources is a key strategy to reduce harmful pollutants both at production and disposal stage. Bio-based materials can in fact offset the carbon emitted during processing as the monomer source grows, and a growing range of sources for bio based monomers -such as wood pulp or sugar cane- is available. However, when assessing the most suitable material for a part, the entire lifecycle of the product needs to be considered. For example: bio-degradable polymers can contaminate a recycling stream and emit methane when incinerated.
The use of environmentally friendly materials should also be supported by an increase in clean renewable energy sources. Lower energy consumption means fewer carbon emissions but also financial savings, making this an appealing measure for manufacturers. New technologies are proving a major gamechanger on this front, helping manufacturers marry their environmental stewardship with cost savings and efficiency. 3D printing, for example, can help develop optimum product moulds more quickly, refining production parameters to minimise raw materials volumes and maximising output productivity.
Similarly, ‘digital twin’ production software uses inline sensors to create a virtual, real-time mirror of the production environment to enable inline refinements. The objective is to achieve “zero defect”, waste-free manufacturing. In addition to this, LEAN manufacturing methodologies are already helping to optimise inventory management and reduce overproduction.
Sustainability by Design
It is increasingly clear that effective environmental sustainability in the medical device sector cannot exist without a full view of the product life cycle from concept development, material selection, design and engineering to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, sales, use, and end-of-life disposal. These evaluations are typically made for factors such as manufacturing efficiency, time to market, or safety and regulatory compliance, packaging and transportation costs, but should be extended to energy efficiency and environmental impact by means such as life cycle analysis.
In addition to this, with devices rapidly becoming more digitally connected, developers need to be aware that the costs of disposable electronics would simply not be viable, or indeed acceptable in the light of electronics disposal regulations. Design therefore should focus on creating a simple, repeatable interface between the two component sections so as not to impair the functionality or efficacy. As reducing waste and harmful emissions continues to exert businesses and governments globally, the medical devices industry cannot stand by. The environmental but also commercial implications of inaction are too serious and the array of solutions now available is exciting and diverse.